2011. After the years of women fighting relentlessly for everything from the right to vote to contraception; the sexes are finally on a level playing field and feminism is now irrelevant, right? Unfortunately this is definitely not the case. In terms of our bodies we may have gained the right to wear a tiny playsuit if we wish to, but we are now confronted by even more problems which shows just how relevant feminism still is.
Getting ready for a night out is a fairly relaxed occasion for most men (metrosexuals and fashion conscious gay men aside) whereas for a woman it can be a minefield. One is expected to look sexy, but not too sexy (after all, you wouldn’t want to be called a slut now would you) and be confident but not too confident (otherwise you are definitely stuck up). As a feminist I find myself with the added burden of wanting to feel beautiful without objectifying myself: whether an outfit makes me an empowered young woman or a sexual object is a definite grey area. This grey area also applies to my feelings on music videos; does it make me a bad feminist to be an avid fan of Beyonce and her confident ‘flaunt it’ attitude but be disgusted by thong adorned dancers in Flo Rida’s ‘masterpieces’?
Which brings me to celebrities. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are created simply to make the average woman feel inadequate. I mean really, I’m sure we’d all look like Megan Fox with a diet of coffee and carrot sticks, a generous serving of Collagen and a personal trainer on speed dial. Alas, we are continuously bombarded by these images of ‘perfection’ and it’s enough for even the most level headed female to feel our value is determined by the size of our thighs. As Shilling (2003) notes, our identity and sense of self is now so intrinsically linked to our bodies.
Furthermore, I believe that the media has a lot to answer for in regard to how we feel about ourselves. The increased prevalence of eating disorders and the popularity of dieting trends glamorised by celebrities of recent years cannot be purely coincidental. Obviously, the complexity of eating disorders cannot be simplified to the extent in which dieting trends (such as ‘size zero’) is held fully responsible; but I do believe they play their part.
So, with all this to contend with, where do women go from here? In my opinion, schools need to start educating children from a young age about self esteem and healthy eating habits – mainly as a preventative measure. I further think that throughout school young people should be given more supervision and support to ensure a healthy relationship with food. Aside from the education system I think that women need to start actively questioning this ridiculous ideology of ‘perfection’ and start putting their health first. Yes, supermodels may feel beautiful now but they will most likely suffer from health problems later. I believe that our bodies are incredibly intelligent entities that should be respected and by treating our bodies in this way we can start to feel beautiful inside and out.
In terms of women being objectified? Well ladies, I think we have a battle on our hands here. I don’t expect that Lady Gaga will be showing any less of her behind any time soon. However, that’s not to say we can’t make changes ourselves. It is undeniable that too much importance is placed on looks in our society but it would be ignorant to suggest women simply shouldn’t care about beauty; it’s only natural for women (and men) to want to feel attractive. So, let’s take the matter into our own hands. Empower yourself. Command respect from men. Don’t hate other women if they are beautiful. Volunteer for a women’s charity. Do not be ashamed to call yourself a Feminist (contrary to popular belief it is not a dirty word). And finally, step away from the scales and realise there is much more to you than the size of your stomach.